RECIPROCITY WITH THE UNITED STATES
Addresses by Mr. J. D. Allan, ex-President Toronto Board of Trade, and Mr. George T. Somers, President of the Sterling Bank of Canada, before the Empire Club, Toronto, on February 23, 1911.
MR. J. D. ALLAN:
I am not too young to remember the effect of the old Reciprocity Treaty being abrogated. Toronto was then a place of about 70,000 inhabitants. The condition of trade at that time was so uncertain that I could not find a place that a boy could be put into, and I had to leave this city to get a situation. But I came back here a few years afterwards, and my return has been amply justified. Now the position of Toronto and the country at that time was one of extreme uncertaintythis was before Confederation. Since then we have been moving along in our own quiet way. A great change has taken place in less than a lifetime, and my hypothesis is that if we have been able, in spite of our great neighbour to the south, to make our position almost invulnerable-so far as their opposition is concerned-I think it gives an indication of the value of the policy our country has been pursuing.
Since Federation we have had no means of knowing the amount of inter-provincial trade, for there are no customs houses between the provinces, as was the case prior 2o 1867. But at the time of Federation the volume of the inter-provincial trade was about $500,000, and this has increased at a very low estimate to $200,000,000 at the present time. Now, to what extent is this inter-provincial trade threatened by the adoption of Reciprocity? What benefit is going to come from it? These are matters that each one in his own business can best settle for himself.
We have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on railways, canals and river navigation. I have been visiting Europe for the last 35 years, and may be considered something of an ocean traveller. I have been on the St. Lawrence on all those trips, and only-these last few years has it been possible to come from Quebec to Montreal at night on the steamer; this because of the wonderful improvements in the waterway, and the wonderful system of lighting. Think of other changes in 40 years, how distance has been almost obliterated by the application of steam in transportation. We have now steamers that cross the Atlantic in less than one-third of the time it took when I first commenced crossing. You can almost go there, do your business and return now, in the time it used to take to cross. What does this mean? It means an absolute need for protection, in the market of the consumer, for our products. Why should we imperil the identity of these products, also, by allowing them to pass through the United States, as they will so largely under Reciprocity.
While I am speaking of this I might mention the West Indies. In 1908, I was there in connection with the Trade Commission instituted by the Boards of Trade. We found that they were selling a lot of stuff in the West Indies that was really Canadian, but had gone through the American market and was known as "American" product. This country has grown too -big for that. Why should we manufacture or grow stuff here and send it abroad and receive no credit for it in the market where it is consumed? I see in this a very serious reason why we should not carry out this arrangement. I have heard people talking who claim it is disloyal for us to trade with the United States. I have never thought so, and do not think so now, but it is. one thing to trade with the individual people of the United States and quite another thing to enter into contract with the Government, the committees and the cliques that make their laws. And, while I have every respect for the American people, I think our safest way is to attend to our own business in our own way and allow them the same privilege.
Now, today, business is a science, and I claim that no man, however clever he may be, can take the whole list of articles effected by this Agreement, and without the advice of experts (I do not mean theoretical experts who take the records from the ledgers and say thus and so is the case, but men who know the actual difficulties of business life in their own particular lines) conclude a satisfactory treaty. We have never had any advice of this kind, therefore I may with propriety question the wisdom of the conclusion come to. Now, individuals ,can only talk with authoritative knowledge in connection with certain things.
Let me say that I happen to be connected with the Union Stock Yards of this city-stockyards that handle more export beef than any two others in Canada put together. The prices at the Union Stock Yards for export cattle have averaged higher in Toronto for six months past than they have either in Chicago or Buffalo. Where is the farmer going to derive his benefit from Reciprocity if he is allowed to ship a product that he can get more for here than there. Now, in reference to Mr. Gage's contention as to similar products. Mr. Gage very carefully went into this matter and over his own signature gave out these facts, which he took in part from the "New York Commercial Bulletin," a commercial journal which is recognized as the principal trade paper in New York:
|Product-||Toronto price. ||New York price.
|Best creamery butter in prints, wholesale ||26c||-26 1/2c
|Prime chickens ||18-20 ||-15
|Prime turkeys ||20-22||-18
|Ducks ||18-20 ||15-16
|Geese ||15-16 ||-14
|Bacon ||16-16 1/2 ||-16 1/2
|Hams||13 1/2-15 ||-14
Gentlemen, there is an exhibition of the fact, that when you scrutinize conditions you do not always find them working out just in accordance with statements that are made unthinkingly. Gentlemen, I believe that the duty of the people of this country is to show the farmer that his position under Reciprocity would not be what he has been led to believe.
We hear and see in some of our papers that these people of the United States are dangerous people. Let me say that I regard the average American citizen (I do not mean the heterogeneous mass that compose the United States at the present time, but the average English-speaking citizen) as being high-minded and as fair as people of our own class in Canada, but in saying that I want to add that it is no convincing argument that we are safe in throwing our nationality into their hands. Sir, I am proud to believe that we belong to an Empire that is bound to endure, and that its endurance is based upon something more than can be represented by things material. From the time we had a history Britain has stood as a friend to all oppressed peoples, no matter where, and raised their position under British rule to be equal to that .of the greatest in the land, and this is what leads to national endurance. Sir, are we in Canada, who have just begun to grasp something of what our possible greatness may be, going to sacrifice ourselves even for a little personal gain?
The other night at the Board of Trade banquet we heard something of the wonderful possibilities of the agriculture of Ontario. Now, we who are urban residents do not want to under-estimate the farmer-we want to give .him every assistance we can, and let him see that we are anxious that the result of his toil shall be as profitable as it can be made. We have no desire to see him selling in any markets that are not his best markets, but it is our desire and our belief that his best markets do not necessarily lie south of the Line. We say it is not in his best interests that the trade should be directed there; and it is not a strange thing that in Ontario we find such a large body of fruit-growers and others in different lines of agriculture who are all of that same opinion. Yet I understand that the Finance Minister said that "the people do not always know what is good for them." Perhaps so, but we are free to confess that no one likes to take a dose of castor-oil, even though he knows the results will be beneficial. The Finance Minister has no more rights in this matter than those who do not believe with him. I might say that I thought in approaching this subject I was doing so with the fullest freedom of a Canadian citizen, with that British principle and characteristic of speaking his own mind; and I believe that is the birthright that we as Britons enjoy, which we propose to protect without any regard as to whether it is called a party question or not.
I do not believe this as a party question. I may say I am a Liberal-I have always been a Liberal, and always hope to have some idea of what Liberal principles consist of-but I do not propose, even at the risk of having people say that I may be read out of the party, to allow my leaders to say what their interpretation of Liberalism may mean and expect me to adopt that interpretation. It may not be known to you that I was so much a Liberal, so far as the City of Toronto was concerned, that when the party could, not get anyone else to stand up against E. B. Osler and E. F. Clarke in West Toronto, I was one of those who were slaughtered because of my Liberalism. But I think none the less of those who voted against me, for they showed by their vote that they had the courage of their convictions, and that is all I am doing now in espousing the cause of opposition to Reciprocity.
MR. GEORGE T. SOMERS.
I do not class myself as a rebel or renegade, or anything of that kind, but as an active Canadian citizen, and I hope and trust that the people to whom I am to speak to today, who have come across my signature so far as Reciprocity is concerned, will believe that I have at least Been honest in giving my opinion, and that I appreciate quite as much the opinions of the gentlemen who differ from me, and who come out and give their views on the other side. This matter has been very much discussed both in our own Board of Trade and in the Associated Boards of Trades yesterday afternoon, where so large a -number of representatives gathered, practically from the whole of the Province of Ontario, and who voted, not unanimously, but by a very large and substantial majority, in opposition to the legislation proposed at Ottawa.
What I maintain is that this is no time for a change. The people of Canada, as you know, are prosperous today. There is prosperity from ocean to ocean and trade relations are favourable. It has been mooted and said by some that Reciprocity will benefit the farmer, and that we in the cities have no reason to complain, as it is not going to interfere with manufacturers-but I feel that this is the thin edge of the wedge anal that this is not the end of what we may expect. So far as the farmer is concerned, I have been as closely identified with the farmers as anyone, as I do business with them every day at 30 or 40 different points, buying their produce and shipping it to the markets of the world, and I do not believe this policy will benefit the farmer to any except a very small extent. In substantiation of that argument I would like to mention the case of barley. We are told that the farmer would get higher prices for his barley than he does at present if we had Reciprocity. He is receiving about 58c. a bushel at the elevators in Ontario at present, but if the new Agreement were consummated he would not only have the United States to deal with, but there would be other countries which have the favoured-nation clause in our treaties. They would be able to ship grain into Canada just as we would ship it to the United States, and they could lay down barley in Toronto today for 56c. a bushel. So, instead of the farmer getting a higher price, the price would actually be lowered.
Let me add this, that I don't think the farmer has been making any particular howl about his condition. He is a prosperous man today, and he is not going around the country asking favours of any other country. There was a time when the small villages used to be filled with lawyers, but they have migrated into the cities--why? Because there are no chattel mortgages to draw up, as there used to be, and it is very seldom you see them now in the farming community. Twenty-five years ago in the township where I lived there were few farms without a chattel mortgage, and many of them had land mortgages as well; but those conditions have changed. Chattel mortgages have disappeared and land mortgages have almost disappeared, and the farmer, instead of being the borrower, has become the man with a little money to loan out to those who need it. When he moves into town he is prepared to lend some money on city property, or deposit it in banks or with trust companies. I do not think these demands for Reciprocity with the States come originally from the farmer, nor do I think that the farmer will benefit if the proposed legislation is passed.
I do think, however, that his home market, from which he has made such enormous profits during the past few years, will very materially suffer, gentlemen. And I do firmly believe that (Canada as a part of the Empire will very materially suffer. We have been spending an enormous amount of money to send the trade East and West, and we are talking of building the Georgian Bay Canal to cost $100,000,000, and of deepening the Welland Canal to cost $60,000,000. We have been spending millions and millions in building transportation lines to bring the trade East and West-to make the trade inter-provincial; now do we want to, by one stroke of the pen, send that trade north and south?
Then does anyone here want to say it will not affect capital? It will affect capital, and is doing so already. Right here in our own city of Toronto you are aware that $1,500,000 worth of bonds were placed in London recently for the purpose of establishing a large flour-mill and elevator on the Bay front. The bonds had all been underwritten, abut so soon as the announcement was made, and the news flashed across the ocean, that Reciprocity with the United States was pending,, the underwriters asked that this matter be delayed until some explanation was given. As soon as the information crossed the ocean that the Government here had committed itself, these underwriters, every one of them, cancelled their underwritings. I know that, gentlemen, for a positive fact. I happened to be speaking the other day to a representative of a large firm of capitalists in the Old Country who had been investing millions of dollars in this country, and he told me that on Friday of last week there came a cable to return to England and to make no further commitments until the Treaty proposition -was disposed of. And yet men will tell you that it will not interfere with British capital. I maintain that it will, and I believe that you all will believe the same if you give the matter study.
As to our loyalty I do not think any of us need question that. We are Canadians, we are British subjects, and I hope and trust and believe that we will remain such. As to the loyalty of our friends across the border, there is no one will question it either, and there is no one who can find fault with them if they wish to extend their borders. They are none the less loyal to the United States if they should wish to attach to their union such a grand territory as that which lies to the north of them; but we would be very disloyal, it seems to me, to ourselves and to our country and to our Empire if we should assist them in any way in doing so. We know that they have attached or annexed certain portions of this Dominion already without our being able to help ourselves. It seems to me we should be very careful at this important juncture, at this important moment in the history of our country, to see that we do not in any way assist our friends across the lane to annex any further portions of this land. I do feel, as I said before, very strongly from a Canadian standpoint, from a national standpoint, that this trade arrangement will be detrimental to this country and that is the reason why I wish to record myself against it.